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NASA Perseverance Rover Spits Out Martian Pebbles Stuck in Its Belly

Mars has a harsh environment that constantly throws dust storms at spacecraft, “choking” them and hindering operations. But that’s not the only thing that can cause problems for rovers on the Red Planet. Sometimes, debris can get stuck in their components, and that’s a completely new challenge that NASA’s team has to solve.
NASA's Perseverance rover clears cored-rock fragments from its sample tube  6 photos
This image shows the drill holes left in the rock nicknamed Issole by the science teamPebble-sized debris can be seen in the bit carousel of NASA’s PerseverancePebble-sized debris can be seen in the bit carousel of NASA’s PerseverancePerseverance’s bit carouselThis image shows the Martian surface below the Perseverance rover
A few weeks ago, the Perseverance rover had successfully drilled into a Martian rock and collected a sample (the 6th rock core ever collected by a spacecraft on another planet). The rover did what it knew best after extraction – it went to store it in a sample tube inside its belly.

That’s where Perseverance stores all the equipment that it needs to collect samples, including a rotating drill carousel, which is a wheel with different drill bits. Next to this carousel are 43 sample tubes that await to be filled with fragments of the alien world.

However, something went wrong on December 29th: pebbles blocked the transfer of the drill bit and sample tube into the carousel. As a result, the rover stopped its scientific operations. Since then, the Perseverance team has tried to come up with a solution to remove the obstructing chunks of debris.

Recently, the team commanded the rover to rotate the bit carousel. That effectively removed two of four rock fragments stuck in there. That means there are still two more left. But according to NASA, the way they are positioned does not seem to affect the machine’s operations.

Additionally, the sample tube with the rover’s latest partial core sample was emptied on January 17th. Perseverance used its robotic arm to position the drill with the tube’s open end above the ground and rotate it. The camera on its head captured some of the material that fell out. Luckily, now the sample tube can be reused.

Currently, the team is planning the next steps that must be taken. Hopefully, the rover will resume its operations soon and will get back to drilling into the rocks from the Jezero Crater.

press release

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